611 Florida Ave , NW
This house of artists and musicians puts on occasional shows of interesting bands that you might otherwise see at more formal, small venues around the city (such as the Warehouse Next Door or DCAC). The music tends to be art-noise but varies quite a bit by show. This is one of DC's few active houses open to the public for music.
1818 New York Avenue , NE
AQUA adds a few elements of night life to New York Avenue. Starting with atmosphere, the club has been remodelled and boasts a nice sunken wooden dance floor. Beyond dancing, AQUA hosts poetry events. AQUA has particularly attracted a local Asian-American following.
1708 L Street , NW
DC should thank the Ascot Lounge for bringing us male dancers and DJ Flexx. Indeed, the Ascot Lounge has appeal on several levels. Monday night male dancers are a big draw. Later in the week it provides a home for Karaoke. Happy hours all week are most fun on Fridays, when DJ Flexx hosts the show. The Ascot Lounge might also be worth stopping by for its popular lunch menu.
3427 Connecticut Ave , NW
Atomic Billiards is the ultimate ideal of a hipster's basement and taproom. Six pool tables are surrounded by funky paintings, sleek stools, retro decor, and a tub of fire balls. Because there aren't many tables, the wait can be long on weekends. But never fear, the zillions of board games available behind the bar will keep you entertained for hours. As will the darts. As will the tremendously impressive jukebox that could probably beat any other indie/modern-rock/punk/hip-hop combo jukebox in the greater Metro area.
1811 14th St , NW
The Black Cat is a concert venue that brings some of the best indie and alternative music to DC. They also host DJ and dance nights as well as spoken word and film events. Black Cat is also a great destination if you don't feel like going to a show - their Red Room is a neat bar with a great juke box, Galaga, and pinball. Food for Thought, a pretty cheap restaurant with good food, is also contained within the club, opens with the rest of Black Cat, and provides a quiet alternative for the evening.
2001 11th Street , NW
When Bohemian Caverns opened in 1926, its dedication to jazz and unique interior (with faux stalactites and stalagmites) quickly made the basement club the place to see and be seen. Pearl Bailey, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flak, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday, and DC local Duke Ellington were amoung the greats to grace the Caverns' stage. After serveral decades of vacancy following the '68 riots, Bohemian Caverns reopened with the original basement level jazz lounge, a main level restaurant, and a 2nd and 3rd level nightclub. Consistently showcasing DC's and the nation's best jazz talent, Bohemian Caverns is once again an elegant and exciting venue for music and dining.
Bud's Restaurant and Nightclub
501 Morse St , NE
Bud's is a neighborhood club that offers hand dancing, "Thirsty Thursdays," and open mic nights. Stop by their downstairs level for the happy hour every weeknight. The evening is filled with a light buffet, pool, and karaoke. Thursday is the main night at Bud's, with free admission, DJs, and apple martinis until 2:00. The space is also available for rent several nights a week.
1438 U Street , NW
Cada Vez is a 1912 building that has been converted into a sleek restaurant and club. It has definitely mastered its style. Outside it is stately marble, with an initial glowing interior view of a waterfall that brings you up to date. Unfortunately, Cada Vez hasn't quite mastered its menu to the same degree. Come here for the happy hour, hand dancing, and the live Latin, go-go, and soul music playing throughout the week.
3439 Benning Road , NE
The Chateau is the place to go hand dancing in the District (or, really, anywhere). Thursday through Sunday, this club is filled with oldies DJs and a middle-aged clientele that definitely knows how to dance. Many of the people here are regulars who also attend dance classes. This is the best place to enjoy DC's own version of swing dancing.
1010 Vermont Avenue , NW
Daedalus basement apartment equivalent of DC's swanky clubs. Once you've made your way down their marble staircase entrance, you'll find bars both to the left and the right. Past the curtain, there are also plenty of futons. If you've relaxed enough on all of their couches, go just a bit further down to the sunken dance floor that connects the two bars. Here, you can dance to many different types of music with an international crowd.
1355 H Street , NE
The DC Sanctuary is both an art gallery and performance space "for those interested in something other than the usual." On fridays and saturdays, the club is filled with the sounds of deep house. Their resident DJs rotate every weekend, so get to know the different DJs and pick your favorite nights. Make it a night here or come when the other clubs close -- DC Sanctuary is open until 5:00.
2135 Queens Chapel Road , NE
DC Tunnel is a huge club that hosts special events rather than making a name for itself with its own weekly DJs. Its VIP rooms, bars, and stage equip it for any kind of party that wants to come through. The Tunnel's size and style has helped it become a major player in local raves. Occasionally, big hip-hop and go-go events also fill the house.
Deno's Metro Club
2335 Bladensburg Rd , NE
Once host to the best go-go bands in the city, this low key club no longer stages any live performances. Deno's is a large stage overlooking a dance floor with a slightly detached spaces that offers a bar, some food (try their specialty - laffy taffy), and tables. One other area with tables serves as a vantage point to check out the action on the floor. A waterfall mural also provides a great backdrop for Polaroids to commemorate good times at Deno's.
2820 Bladensburg Road , NE
Officially the Solar Eclipse, this is a great place to enjoy oldies and hand dancing on Thursdays and Fridays. Early birds can also enjoy the happy hour and free buffet available until 8pm. In addition to its club nights, Eclipse hosts hand dancing classes several nights a week.
268 Carroll St , NW
The Electric Maid defies categorization -- it's truly a community space that allows for flexible use both day and night. The Maid is a storefront in Takoma, DC which is being converted into a space for community functions. Included in the club section because it hosts concerts and benefits, it also showcases local art, hosts workshops, and provides a hub for political activism. The Electric Maid is truly an outgrowth of the DC community.
Ellington's on Eighth
424A 8th Street , SE
Ellington's is a cozy jazz and champagne lounge that also doubles as a full service restaurant. The front room is lined with cushy chairs on one wall and a bar on the other. The back room is an inviting dining space where you can enjoy some family recipes. When the weather is warm, Ellington's back patio is a good place to relax with a cold drink. You can hear live jazz Thursday through Saturday and at weekend champagne brunch. The owner is interesting to talk to and is willing to make food that isn't even on the menu. You'll feel welcome any time of the day or night at Ellington's.
H Street Martini Lounge
1236 H St , NE
This H Street club is a recent addition to the upscale, trendy lounges spotted around DC. True to its name, this club offers over fifty martinis from 007 to Zoo. The spacious club is spread across a quiet first floor and and upstairs with live entertainment.
HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz & Blues
1610 Fourteenth Street , NW
HR-57 might be the only nonprofit club in DC (though if you're looking for afternoon blues, you should also check out the Archie Edwards Blues Foundation). Home not only to jazz and blues nights, the club hosts monthly story telling, workshops, and other activities. The club is one long room, with a stage in the back. As you watch and listen, you can either enjoy their food and drink or bring your own. The front of the club has some merchandise and games. Be sure to check out the interesting artwork throughout HR-57. This is a fun place that works hard to promote some of DC's musical roots.
917 U Street , NW
Though Kingpin isn't much bigger than a cramped studio apartment, it never seems to be too crowded (unlike some of the bigger bars to the northwest). Kingpin opens later than its downstairs neighbor, Velvet Lounge, and is a great place to end the night. Low-lit and furnished with old couches and mod plastic sculpted chairs, Kingpin is one of a handful of bars in the area where you can actually relax. Cheap drinks and accessable DJ booth make it the neighborhood destination of choice.
2737 Martin Luther King Ave , SE
One of the only long-standing night spots east of the river, the Player's Lounge (or Georgina's Restaurant and Catering) is a restaurant and bar that is lined with customers for lunch during the week and filled with a late night crowd on weekends. In the evening, the bar is filled with neighbors mostly in their thirties and up. On weekends, a younger crowd arrives once the DJ starts around eleven. Although many local politicians have put the Player's Lounge on their list of places to relax with their constituents, the Lounge doesn't have a political feel at all. Instead, it is a family owned business (almost everyone working there is related to the owners) geared towards the neighborhood.
Takoma Station Tavern
6914 4th Street , NW
Takoma Station Tavern is relaxed bar and a great place for live entertainment. The club has brought some nationally renowned jazz musicians to Takoma Park, as well as local performers. The club supports not only jazz, but also other musicians, poets, and comedians. Almost every night of the week, Takoma Station has an event planned. The small dance floor is popular, but many people choose to stay at one of the many tables, booths, or by the bar. If you're hungry, their fries are a tried and true choice. (202-829-1937)
3125 Mount Pleasant Avenue , NW
The sign outside Mount Pleasant mainstay The Raven mysteriously bills it as the "Raven Grill," though inside there's nary a grill to be found. You won't miss it though, because the Raven's second mysterious feature is that, while on face there seems to be little to distinguish it from any number of other neighborhood dives, it is a bonafide DC institution. The elements are familiar enough-a jukebox stocked with a fairly standard assortment of classic rock and Motown, large portraits of dead artists and actors from Miles Davis to John Lennon lining the walls-but the Raven is somehow more than the sum of its parts. The crowd is typically a mix of Latin locals and hipsters borne in on the waves of gentrification, though even folks living well outside the District have been known to make it a late-night destination. The Raven's secret is a combination of low drink prices, genial bartenders, and perhaps most important, an atmosphere that's friendly and free of pretense but not coarse. It's the sort of place in which you can't help but begin to relax almost immediately.
331 1/2 Pennsylvania Ave , SE
The moment you set foot in this unassuming Capitol Hill dive you are transported to a different place: think small town bar where the locals head at 5 o'clock to meet their buddies and drink cheap domestic brews. While the bar stools usually fill up with regulars, there are plenty of booths toward the back. The walls are covered with all sorts of stuffed game, not to mention the sports (NASCAR!), beer and NRA paraphernalia. The food is good and greasy: stellar burgers (& veggie burgers), fries, onion rings and the best mozzarella sticks around! (A must!!!) Be sure to check out the stuffed deer butts above the bathroom (although, it's best to wait until after you eat) and if you're lucky your waitress will sing along to the jukebox (packed full of rock and country classics). This is the place to go if you're looking to get away from the usual Hill Staffer scene.
5516 Colorado Ave and 1344 U Street , NW
This small restaraunt and club hosts live jazz several nights a week. The bands are always changing, so check their schedule or just stop by for a surprise. The food is a slightly more interesting version of bar food, and the artwork around the club is pretty great. Twins is a good place to relax for an evening.
915 U Street , NW
Located on the less bustling end of the increasingly popular U Street revival area, Velvet Longue keeps its promise as one of DC's "most eclectic" performance spaces. Downstairs is filled with a hip and chill clientele drinking (cheap!) martinis under the light of funky lamps. Upstairs has an incredible sound system for such a small venue and live
multi-track digital recording facilities. They host local bands as well as top national indy acts.
1101 Kenyon St , NW
Wonderland is a great bar that quickly became a favorite for hipsters beyond its Columbia Heights home. The bar has a neighborhood feel that could be associated with any rustbelt city more than the District. The two level space provides a normal bar downstairs, and a smoke-free, quieter upstairs. The place is low-key and friendly. Wonderland has a solid juke box, plenty of faces, and already hosts a variety of local events. This is a welcome addition to a usually quiet street.
700 Water Street , SW
Zanzibar is a stylish club overlooking the Waterfront. The club brings excellent live jazz and singers outside to the deck. DJs inside sping hip-hop, old school, R&B, and reggae on the two dance floors. The impressive view, crankin' system, and great food help attract a classy crowd ages thirty and above.